by Davina Sasoon
The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero) was over 100 years old during the famous battle in 1836. While it is the best known of the Bexar area missions, it is one of five built along the old missions trail that connected Mexico with East Texas in what was the largest mission concentration in North America.
Traveling south of the Alamo, from the heart of San Antonio, are four other old missions within a seven-mile stretch now know as the Mission Trail. The original Yanaguana Trail (named for the indigenous people) meandered along the San Antonio River. There, between the end of the 17th and middle of the 18th century Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada were built.
I was excited to attend the Honors College Road Trip to San Antonio in late February this year. I made quite a few new friends and met new members of the Honors College. We explored San Antonio together and made great memories. A really special part of the trip was seeing the missions in San Antonio. Most of us have read about the Alamo and the missions throughout school, and though we learn about their purposes in Texas History class, it is a whole different experience to walk through the missions, read the signs, and realize the purposes each area/room served. As we walked through the mission rooms, they seemed small. Some students did not fit through the doorways without bending. We explored the areas throughout the missions and gained a real appreciation for their numerous functions. My favorite mission was Mission San José. It was founded in 1720 and quickly became a major social and cultural center. It was very interesting to observe how the missions were much, much more than churches. They were communities. We walked through where the kitchen used to be, where the people lived, and we saw the boarded wells. Mission San José also has a special, beautiful symbolic structure called The Rose Window. The meaning of this unique window is not fully known or understood. It is believed to have been sculpted by Pedro Huizar, who was living in the vicinity of San José in the 1780s. According to a few of the legends the rose window was so called because it was dedicated by the mourning sculptor to a lost love named Rosa or Rosita (from the Texas State Historical Association web article on Pedro Huizar).
The Road Trip is a feature of Honors College programming each February. In recent years the destinations have included Archer City, the LBJ Library and Ranch in the Hill Country, the ghost town of Thurber, Oklahoma City, and Dinosaur Valley State Park.